Speech of the Hon KP Chan on environment policies on the motion of thanks for the Policy Address at the Legislative Council meeting on October 27, 2010 (Synopsis)
• In his Policy Address, the Chief Executive puts forward several key measures on improving air quality. They include subsidies for purchasing more environmental-friendly buses and retrofitting old models with “catalytic reduction devices”. Franchised operators are also required to switch to zero emission or the most environmental-friendly buses in fleet renewals, taking into account feasibility and affordability. Another measure is substantially increasing imported nuclear energy to 50 percent of the fuel mix for power generation.
• Some disagree to subsidizing franchised bus operators because it is against the principle of polluter pays. Some query the outcome. Many others instead wonder whether the Government should extend subsidy for emission reduction to other public transport like light buses and taxis and even to power plants as well. I fully appreciate their concerns and concur that the Government should have long term plans for the policy agenda in order to address different views.
• The Government now offers to subsidize franchised operators to help fight air pollution for the benefit of the public – having better health and not having to pay higher bus fares. Given the public interest, I fully endorse. However, the Government should respond to public concerns including full accounts on the pilot scheme and negotiations on bus route restructuring for emission reduction as well as clarifications on similar subsidies, if any, for other means of transport.
• The Government proposes to optimize fuel mix for power generation with natural gas accounting for 40 percent, coal for no more than 10 percent, renewable energy for about 3-4 percent and imported nuclear energy for the balance of about 50 percent. I fully support significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and increasing the use of non-fossil cleaner and low-carbon fuels including renewable energy.
• However, I have reservation on having only 3-4 percent renewable energy but significantly increasing imported nuclear energy for power generation. To date, the Government has not provided details of the costs of nuclear power generation and waste disposal. Officials say that 90 percent of nuclear waste would be recyclable, complemented by burial after permanent sealing as practiced in other countries. Many organizations disagree and they point out that even in France, the most advanced country, only 8 percent of nuclear waste are recycled and costs are high. As for burial after permanent sealing, there are still outstanding issues after years of research and the US has given up such plan. The Government should first assess the capability of Hong Kong to sustain radiation leakage and consult the public with a full report.
• In my view, Hong Kong should not only study nuclear power generation or imported nuclear electricity but also continue to invest in renewable energy power generation. We should also attract investors including Mainland enterprises in renewable energy for power supply to Hong Kong.
• Environmental protection should be a sustainable exercise. We should not bring in a different pollution to clean up air pollution. Long term solutions to environmental protection lie in research and development of renewable energy, promotion of energy efficiency and encouragement of energy saving.